New algae process for biofuel production earns patent for CMC instructor
Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle campus strives to stay on the forefront of leading integrated technologies.
Dr. Dennis Zhang is one example of the outstanding faculty bringing this leading technology into classrooms. In March, he received approval for an exciting patent for a process used for biofuel production from algae.
Last August, Zhang joined our talented faculty as the associate professor of integrated energy. In addition to having a background in teaching, he has also built his career on process engineering associated with energy.
Before starting at CMC, he served as a senior chemical engineer at Solix BioSystems, Inc., in Fort Collins, with a focus on downstream processes for algae biofuels and bioproducts.
His patent – U.S. Patent No. 8,399,239 – is a new process for separating biomass from algae for use in biofuels production and generation of related algae products. Algae production for biofuel occurs in four steps: the algae are grown in water, the algae are harvested, processes are used to attract the oil from the algae and the oil is then converted to diesel oil. The patent concerns the process in the third step – processes to attract the oil from the algae.
Previous processes for attracting the oil from algae have been high cost and low efficiency, but Zhang’s process achieves a 95 percent algae recovery rate. It’s a remarkably high-efficiency and low-cost solution.
Algae production for biofuel is a promising new energy field. Not only can solar energy be integrated to grow the algae, but algae eat carbon dioxide and thrive in wastewater.
With integrated energy technology being the flagship program of Colorado Mountain College’s campus in Rifle, our students have invaluable access to new technologies for alternative energies. And we are currently working on bringing this technology even closer to our students; CMC is working on implementing an algae-growing station at the Rifle campus.
Zhang’s strong research and instructional background brings invaluable knowledge to our students who will have the opportunity to learn more about algae biofuels, related processes and advanced technology.
Our faculty at Colorado Mountain College bring a mix of on-the-job experience, scientific research and educational expertise that enables our students to be competitive in the marketplace of oil and gas and renewable energies.
Nancy Genova is Colorado Mountain College’s vice president at the Rifle campus.
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